basic trials training: riding with confidence
A surprisingly large part of trials riding is a mind game. Your skills and experience provide the foundation for your riding, but how positively or negatively you think plays a huge part in how well you will ride. We've all experienced that feeling on our first lap of the sections that we'll never make it, but on the final lap of the day we are cruising through all the sections with confidence. Part of this is because we now know the sections, but a lot of it is the confidence gained with each lap and we can relax and ride our best.
First, let's be clear that safety always comes first - regardless of the class you are riding in there is nothing wrong with realizing a section is beyond your abilities, taking a five and skipping to the next section. Confidence does not mean tackling the impossible with blind faith!
Also, everyone will put themselves at different places on a spectrum between pushing things to the limit or just having fun and staying well within the comfort zone. One of the great things about trials is everyone respects the approach of others, so never worry about what others will think and bite off more than you can chew.
a positive approach to trials riding
So having said that, a positive approach to a challenging section can be a good thing. Have you ever lined up for something new and thought to yourself I'll never make this? Your body reacts accordingly and you will tense up, not allow your bike to move freely, your technique will be stiff and forced, and chances are you will bugger it up nicely.
At other times, you will surprise yourself and sail through it, and the confidence gained will show each time you tackle it after that.
With practice, most of our trials technique comes from an instinctive subconscious level, and a negative approach interferes with this. So what can we do to develop confidence and a positive approach to riding?
Avoid negative self-talk
Do you tell yourself "I'll never make this!" whenever facing a challenge? Deliberately choose to think confidently e.g. "I have the skills and I can do this". Negative thoughts only get in the way of letting your body do what you've trained it to do.
Act with confidence
Look at riders in the club who exude confidence and act in a similar way. Of course it will be an act but there is plenty of evidence from sports psychology that acting with confidence can lead quickly to true confidence. Focus on your strengths. It's very rare in trials clubs, but if you have an arrogant dick who is full of himself, don't act like that, unless of course that happens to be your thing.
Visualize successful technique
Most top athletes use visualization as a powerful psychological technique for tackling new techniques, and it works. Watch videos of trials riders doing the techniques you want to learn. Close your eyes and picture yourself doing the same techniques in your head. This visualization starts connecting synapses in your brain that will actually prepare you for the real thing.
Finally, there is nothing wrong with a safety net. If you are concerned about falling in a steep part of the section, get other riders to spot for you. This isn't negative thinking, but simply removes a concern that could get in the way of riding positively. Likewise, plan where to put a foot down if needed and make the most of that dab. Again, this isn't negative thinking but simply having a back up plan that allows you to focus fully on the task ahead.
See all of this information in action with our Ride with confidence video.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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